Aging is interesting.  Like a first pregnancy, it takes us into unfamiliar terrain, prompts new
perspectives and is tinged with both excitement and fear.  Last week I had a cardiac calcium scan, where they look for calcium buildup to gauge the heart risk of high cholesterol.
I got a score of 200.  Yikes!  One website said I have the heart of a 78-year-old.  (I’m 74.). Another site said a score of 200 indicated that, without some change, I would have a stroke or heart attack within the next three to five years.   My doctor just said he wanted to start me on statins.  Interesting…

Several years back a brain scan indicated that my brain was shrinking and had white matter.  

Both scans put me deeply in touch with my mortality.  The idea that my brain is shrinking was particularly disturbing.  I’ve passed whatever apex I’ve aspired to and it’s all downhill from here!  No one who knows me will be surprised. 

I find the heart business comforting.  My family has two natural paths out of this life –
heart attack and cancer.  At age eighty-two, my paternal grandfather had a heart attack while driving in Wilmington and came to a stop against a telephone pole.  No one else was injured.  My father was eighty-five when he got up one morning, poured orange juice for himself and mom, sat down in his chair and died.  If the statins keep me around for ten more years, a heart attack sounds just fine.  

Of course, none of this is known.  At each doctor’s appointment, we work to continue in good health knowing that one day the other shoe will drop.  It is not given to us to know the how or when.  Scans only supply intimations.

When I shared the cardiac scan info with my son, he said, “Mom, you have the heart of a lion.”
How could I not adore this man!


At 72, it takes two tries
to get each foot into my jeans.
I wobble and catch myself
against the closet shelf.
At 72, I nap each day
enjoy my dreams 
scary or complex, puzzles
to ponder in waking hours.
At 72, it seems absurd
that I remember a child’s
great great grandmother. 
I'm a walking history text.
At 72, my 87-year-old friend
says I am young. I should
not fret but get to work.
I have another 20 years.
At 72, I think of poems 
unwritten, songs unsung
and return to my desk.
The day is young.


The Lord’s Prayer went missing today
on my knees no words to say.
Often a name, a place 
evaporates as I reach for it.
Whole chunks of books I’ve read
when opened, I’ve lost the thread.
I used to drive with knowledge sure
of roads from today and long ago
my sense of place, a source of pride.
That map in my brain is gone.
This troubles me.  It isn’t clear 
what’s normal.  What I should fear.
I trust the journey - friends, family, God
and if I must – will seek in books, maps,
stories, prayers to fill my lips
and ease my grip upon this world
and what remains – the precious gift
of days and hours, I ‘ve yet to claim.


Grey’s the hair color you can’t buy.
I tried. I urged my hairdresser to
change my entire head.
“Not possible”, he said
“although new grandmothers
often ask.”
It’s good perhaps
some things remain
beyond our grasp
Time’s provenance
to bestow
If we’re so
My grey hair
like my mom’s
lifts from my brow
on just one side.
I’ve left it pale since
the February day
she died.


He walks the woods no more
this land whose every hill he knows
geodes by the stream
the trail where turkeys file at dusk.

Right hand upon his dog,
he sits beside the window to watch
the squirrels she used to chase
cache nuts against the coming dark.

A doe, two fawns at clearing’s edge
browse by the lick set out last fall.
Their colors blend with leaves and brush
that hide morels awaiting spring.

His wife is ill. Her malaise named
but without cure. His hips, once limber,
grate now sharply bone on bone.
He lets the dog out, sees her roam.

When he whistles,
she trots slowly home.

Cynthia M. Sheward


It’s us we dust
not some distant rabbit fluff or forgotten flake of stranger.
Our very mitochondria’s cast off about the sofa, table, chair
our entire lair’s alive with microscopic leavings.
It’s our breadcrumb trail back to time remembered or forgot.
Small bits of days from childhood – nights of
watching tiny satellites pass overhead-
the miracle of travel where once only stars and comets
flew – who knew the things to follow – cell phones, laptops
GPS – we know more now by knowing less
but break still in the old, weak spots.

Cells too remain from proms missed and attended
dried orchids hung on curtains
hearts broken and by time mended.
Teenage love songs, Buddy Holly, Elvis
George and Ringo, John and Paul –
the words, key changes, new hair styles
we loved them all.

Flecks too remain from tying sneakers for my son
and knitting Kate a turquoise sweater,
praying daily for my marriage to get better.
Those small children now have babies of their own
and I’m a grandmom with grey hair, cell phone, creped skin.
The scales of aging waltz without and within
toward a place past time and dust.

Published in Evening Street Review, Autumn 2012.


The way the light falls into my bathroom
each morning in summer
is known to me
like my name.
I know it better than how to
grow old
retire or
navigate social security.
Its soft presence
from the east, gently,
lifts me into the day.
It’s only absent in storm
but then still present in a
diffuse way.
Light, more faith than fifty creeds,
daily holds me
in its glow.
Moving is not just a
new baker, grocer, dry cleaner,
a change in the way home,
new paths
to reach old friends,
it’s a shift in how
the world looks when I wake
as I splash
water on my face,
how I see myself
as I prepare
to meet the world.
It’s a change in all I know.
The way the light falls into my bathroom
each morning in summer
is known to me
like my name.



Published in Evening Street Review, Autumn 2012.

Image ID: 19334240
Copyright Christophe.rolland1 |


No laughter resonates
like that of women beyond
need of make-up and reach of girdles.
Ladies for whom wrinkles rank in importance
well below the dog’s recovery from Lyme disease
and driving the neighbor to dialysis.
No humor is quite so funny as old friends’ jibes
about each other’s foibles and failings
or jests about sex more remembered than practiced.
The stories sweeten with each repeat.
No place is safer
than one warmed
by the laughter
of friends.